“The Pain Holder” “Many Unexplainable Pains” “Setting The Table” & “Lament For Winged Things”

The Pain Holder

Is she The Pain Holder now? my therapist asks.

I recount the funeral—the house full

of dishes, the curio of salt-n-pepper shakers, little

porcelain penguins, pandas, toucans, twos of every

kind, piles of baubles and trinkets laid out for

bequeathing, the hovering swarm, the ghost cloud,

Death’s handshake. And the girl, now

grown. A glass river spilled from her

eyes, shattered on concrete at our feet. I

had to step back. I wished I could take her from

Fear’s grip. It is not right, but true.

I flashback forty years—migraines, asthma,

dislocated knees. And I want to tell The Pain Holder

that trusting in one story can fracture a spirit, a family,

a world—that she, her body, is not meant to hold

generations of disowned pain. I want her to know

I noticed our matching gold zippers.

Many Unexplainable Pains

Do you feel at home in your body? the healer asked.

I said no, but thought it sounded nice.

I examine pains by their roots.

I distrust the unexplainable.

My Poly’s actin’ up again, my grandma would say.

Poly, short for Polymyalgia: many unexplainable pains.

Poly was managed with a daily dose of Mt. Dew and

Oxy, Poly’s best friend. Little brain bamboozler,

nothing’s wrong trickster.

I was raised to make my body a temple

that was never to be entered.

I adorned it in unworthiness, understood that pain

was punishment, silent suffering the way

to righteousness. I was halfway to heaven

with asthma, Raynaud’s, dislocating knees.

Tendon fissures detached from bone,

kneecap stuck on the side of the leg, the hand

does what it must, pulls it back into place.

Knee, weight-bearer of kneel, repent, dear god.

My knees dislocate on treadmills, running downhill,

both knees at the same time, dancing. My knee dislocates

and I fall down stairs with my baby girl inside me.

Could a home in the body exist

outside a history of wounds?

Could I form some semblance of a whole?

Make my body a home from every wrecked piece?

Setting The Table

How do I show you the table I left for the table I chose

when so many in the world have no choice?

How do I say the table I created was born of hardship

when I have never known what it is to be starving?

I had become accustomed to silent screaming,

clanking silver and stolen flowers.

I had become accustomed to eating at the table

where truth is discarded for the appearance of unity.

An impossible place for love to exist. How could I stay there

and give you what I wasn’t giving myself?

This is why I left. Why I chose

a table made of weathered, reclaimed wood.

I need to feel that connection

when I rub it with beeswax,

which makes it smell like honey,

which makes our board games smell like honey.

Like a sacrament, I polish its crescent moon wine stains

and extra wear on the end where my daughter sits.

She creates the centerpiece: acorn, agate,

empty chickadee egg, crimson maple leaf.

I set each place and light a candle.

If you have sat at my table, I hope you know

you were chosen, too.

Lament For Winged Things

I walk out on the news today—

the Supreme Court’s “full-throated

unflinching repudiation” of Roe v.

Wade—I walk outside with constriction

in my throat—bitter aftertaste

like the fake lemonade I drank in my

childhood church, where a full-throated

stage angel flinched from the ache of

clipped wings, her sunken cage when

the pastor said, Breasts distract him from

his mission, her voice smaller, then she

couldn’t remember her song—like the caged

birds of Tao Dan Park losing their original

songs amid a backdrop of beauty where

the Mekong Delta runs and the lotus flower

blooms sharp white, sinking at night in

muddy water, rising pure every dawn—

I walk to the wetland where air

does not stifle, where a sandhill crane

wades, beckoning red, honey plumes in

muddy water, prodding, jutting like a

flightless bird, I walk parallel to her,

listen to our feet crunch reeds in the dirt—

I sense her readiness to lift, to leave

the ground, and without a sound

she rises and flies.

*quote from May 2, 2022 POLITICO article

Laura Rockhold is a poet and visual artist living in Minnesota. She is the inventor of the golden root poetic form and 2022 recipient of the Bring Back The Prairies Award and Southern MN Poets Society Award. Her work is published or forthcoming in: Birdcoat Quarterly, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Cider Press Review, deLuge Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, The Fourth River, The Hopper, Yellow Arrow Journal and elsewhere. She holds a BS from the University of Minnesota. Her website is: www.laurarockhold.com.